Illini intensify team routines after two meets

By Wesley Deberry

The Illinois women’s gymnastics team has stepped up their intensity level this week in practice after posting solid scores in its two opening meets against No. 18 Missouri and No. 14 LSU. Coach Bob Starkell says that he has put more of an emphasis on execution.

Starkell said he hopes these changes will help lift the team to victory in their home opener against the Iowa Hawkeyes this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Huff Hall. The Illini hope this meet will yield the same result as last year when they traveled to Iowa and defeated the Hawkeyes 193.850-193.025.

However, senior captains Danye Botterman and Melissa Singer will be absent from the Illinois roster due to injury.

“I think that the difficult thing when you don’t have Danye or Mel is that you miss out on the senior leadership that you could be using on the floor for some of the younger players,” Starkell said.

Though Botterman and Singer cannot participate in meets physically, they do stay very close to the mat in an effort to help their younger teammates.

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Standing in to fill the voids in the lineup left by Botterman and Singer are freshmen Nicole Cowart and Sarah Schmidt.

Both Cowart and Schmidt said they are excited about performing in front of a home crowd for the first time in their young collegiate career.

However, Schmidt said she also finds the experience nerve racking.

“I’m going to go into it like it’s a practice, forget about the crowd, and go do what I know I can do,” Schmidt said when explaining how she was going to get over her pre-match jitters.

Starkell is confident in his team and believes that the home environment will add a level of comfort to his team.

“We will be able to perform everything we always do but at a higher level,” Starkell said.